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OVER.- the: 

•ON -A- 

BICTCLE. 

EUZABETH -ROBINS-FENNELX.- 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR. 

A CANTERBURY PILGRIMAGE. 
OUR SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY. 
TWO PILGRIMS' PROGRESS. 



*.* Th9»e volumes, tosetber with the pnaeat, 
complete a Journey made by Bicycle and Tricycle 
from Lottdoa to Rome la the yean 1884 to 1897. 



OVER THE ALPS 
ON A BICYCLE^ 

BY 

ELIZABETH ROBINS PENNELL 

ILLUSTRATED By ^ 

JOSEPH PENNELL J '/ ^ 



LONDON: T. FISHER UNWIN 
PATERNOSTER SQUARE 1898 ' 






% 



THE NEW YORK 

PUBLIC LIBRARY 

AITDll) LtNOX AND 






[v4// r^A/s fcsrrwd] 



• « • • • 









• • • 






• • •< 






TO THE ALPINE CLUB, 

TO WHOM I SHOULD LIKE TO POINT OUT 

THAT THERE IS ANOTHER 

AND MORE DELIGHTFUL METHOD OF CLIMBING. 






X 



\ \ 






oveflthe: 

■ONI-A- 

BICTCLE, 

EI.IZABETH •K.OBINS-PENNEJJI. 



12 



OVER THE ALPS ON A BICYCLE 

came to the summit of the hill down which you coast eight kilometres 
into that place, we should have seen the Alps rising on the horizon 
as they do in theatrical drop curtains and on Turner's canvases. But 






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DIJON. 



factory smoke and mist wiped put the distance. Up and down we 
rode to Dole, and, in the footsteps of Ruskin, and Albert Smith, and 
Elwell's cycle tourists, and our own — for we had been there before — ^we 
went to the little Park that was to afford us a panorama of peaks and 



THE COL DE LA FAUCILLE ij 

precipices. Instead, rain washed out the view. Our landlady consoled 
us by the assurance that after rain, if you got up early enough, you 
could see the white range quite clear against the sky. In the morning 



■ :^.i!^ 



THE LITTLE PARK AT d6lE. 



we overslept ourselves ; there was blinding yellow light everywhere, but 
not an Alp. 

Up and down for another day we rode, and then we were well in the 
Jura, on our first pass, the Col de la Faucille. How much I had heard 



CONTENTS 



MY FIRST PASS, 



THE COL DE LA FAUCILLE 



LA T^TE NOIRE 



THE ST. BERNARD 



THE SIMPLON 



THE SPLUGEN 



THE SAN BERNARDINO 



THE ST. GOTTHARD 



MY SECOND PASS. 



J»S PASS. 



MY FOURTH PASS. 



MY FIFTH PASS. 



MY SIXTH PASS. 



MY SEVENTH PASS. 



PAGE 
II 



19 



32 



36 



54 



67 



72 



1 6 OVER THE ALPS ON A BICYCLE 

below, a whitish line filled the distance, and instead of Ruskin's stai^irt, 
glistening- white, village-crowned, glacier-bound chain of Alps, were vast 
cloud banks. However, I had come out not to see views that were not 
to be seen, but to go over the Alps on a bicycle, and so I pumped up the 
pneumatic again and began my ride down. The road was broad and 
beautifully engineered, for we were still in France. When I reached the 
first curve I had a bad time. The road doubled straight back on itself; 
on one side, the pine forest, on the other a drop of some thousand feet. 
Every yard or so a stone post, just high enough to hit my pedal, was to 
save me from grim death. I steered from the precipice and tried to 
come round with the dignity that befits my twenty years of cycling. 
But the road was not banked up. I ran into the gutter, and sat down in 
the bushes. I picked myself up and looked over the side. Half a 
dozen zigzags below was J. coasting like mad, foreshortened so I could 
only see the top of his head. He approached a curve. As he turned it 
he leaned right out over the precipice. He took his hands off. 
Heavens ! was he falling ? No, he was lighting his pipe. If he could 
get down, so could I. It is true I rode for a while in a most lady- 
like manner, but after half a dozen turns, by keeping my pneumatic on 
and by back-pedalling for all I was worth, by turning as short as possible 
at the curves, there was no trouble. I actually caught up to J. ; he was 
sitting on the bank at the time, smoking. 

It was a stunning ride. The gradient was not very steep, and it 
became easier where the road wound back and forth and round and 
about among the foot-hills. Never once, however, did I let the machine 
go. We both put our faith in the pneumatic brakes and our feet on the 
rests, and coasted delightfully. Did we look at the view ? As I have 



THE COL DE LA FAUCILLE 17 

said, there was not much to look at. But if there had been, the 
machines were about all we could attend to. We did stop every little 
while, and once we had the pleasure to behold in a cloud of dust, away 
above us, the polyglot phrase-book Swiss, a pine-tree tagged to his wheel, 
wobbling down with difficulty. After that, we saw him no more. I 
had heard of the terrors of this pass for years, and I found a perfect 
coast. There were only two interruptions : one at Gex for lunch, and a 
second at Sacconax, that the thrifty Swiss Government might extract from 
us eighteen francs for the privilege of coming into the country and 
spending about 1,800. You can cycle freely, without let or hindrance 
from the authorities, in every part of Europe, except in the two petty 
divisions known as Belgium and Switzerland. Switzerland would cease 
to exist to-morrow but for the tourist, and yet, unless he travels in their 
carriages, employs their guides, and goes to their swell hotels, the Swiss 
do nothing but bother him from morning till night. 

No sooner, after an unnecessary delay of at least half an hour, did 
we escape from the custom house, than we came to bad roads. The 
Swiss would never have had anything worth having but for the foreigner, 
and when they get a decent thing they do not know enough to take care 
of it. Swiss roads were built mostly by Napoleon, and now that there 
is no Napoleon, they are going to rack and ruin. Swiss mountains have 
all been climbed by Englishmen. Swiss hotels are all supported by 
Americans. And if it had not b^en for Gesslef, a foreigner too, the 
people might never have had a music-hall hero like William Tell. 

We came to Geneva, and wheeled down the long street, at the end 
of which Mont Blanc, according to all the photograph shops, rears its 
head so proudly. But Mont Blanc was not there, and a second glance 



THE fURKA 



THE CRIMSEL 



THE BRUNIG 



THE ROUTE 



CONTENTS 
MY EIGHTH PASS. 



MY NINTH PASS. 



MY TENTH PASS. 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



DIJON ..... 

THE LITTLE PARK AT d6lE 

COMING DOWN THE COL DE LA FAUCILLE 

WHERE MONT BLANC SHOULD BE 

ROAD Ur FROM ARGENTl^RE 

THE t£tE noire ROAD . 

LOOKING UP THE RHONE VALLEY FROM THE COL DE LA I 

THE ROAD TO THE HOSPICE, GREAT ST. BERNARD 

VISP ..... 

IN THE RHONE VALLEY . 

TUNNELS AND GALLERIES OF THE SIMPLON 

THE SIMPLON HOSPICE 

MEMORIAL CROSS ON THE SIMPLON 

RAVINE OF GOKDO 

OLD HOSPICE .... 



oveflthe: 

•ON-A- 

BICTCLE. 

EUZABETH -ROBINS-FEHINEiJl- 



. ^..J ■ JHi.-.»l 



*• ■ '-NCJX AND 



LA TfeTE NOIRE 23 

you want to know what that looks like, you must go there yourself, for 
you can get no idea of that sudden sensational burst of Alpine glory 
from any written description, from any drawing or painting. 

I arrived at Chamounix at noon. My coming made no sensation, 
and as there are no passes in the town J. and I left after lunch. But 
not before I had learnt that the most characteristic thing in Chamounix 
is the statue of De Saussure having the summit of Mont Blanc pointed 
out to him by Balmat the guide — at least, that is what I believe it 
represents. Probably this great work of art has been exhibited in 
the old Salon^ and, in my capacity of critic of art, I cannot help 
describing it. The guide has evidently dragged the eminent scientist 
from the table d'hote dinner of the nearest hotel and, addressing him 
in his trilingual patois^ is saying, "But there is a mountain there!" 
De Saussure replies, *' Bless my soul, so there is. I never knew it ! " 
— He was a Swiss. — And the guide says, " We will go up ! " and De 
Saussure says, " Right you are." And the guide says, " Five hundred 
francs, sir, sheap, very sheap ! " And Alpinism is created. 

More rain. But unless you are a millionaire or a lover of the 
German, you cannot stay in Chamounix overnight. I noticed that 
Mont Blanc discreetly withdrew behind a veil, as if the sights and 
sounds of tourism were too much for the greatest mountain in Europe. 
Chamounix being in France, we started off again on good roads for 
our second pass, the Tete Noire. We rode to Argentiere, and then I 
did not ride any more. I walked, and I shoved, and I pushed through 
the mud and the mist, till it seemed to me I must have climbed as high 
as the top of Mont Blanc himself. I left the trees, I came up to the snow, 
into the region of glaciers and icy precipices, but I never got above the 



24 OVER THE ALPS ON A BICYCLE 

tourist line. A constant procession was coming over — on horseback, in 
carriages, on muleback, afoot ; among them two Englishwomen who, 
seeing me, were moved to remark, *' Combien Argentiere? " Not having 
heard that the place was for sale, I was compelled to reply that I did not 
know. But if the English will try to sp)eak a language they do not 
understand, the American always speaks one he does and gets along 
just as well. I was hardly on my machine again, beginning the 
coast that followed the climb, when I saw below me a couple of 
cyclers whom I knew from afar to be fellow-countrymen. I knew 
it by their hats, by the fact that their coats were ofF (nobody takes 
ofF his coat in cycling but an American), by their braces, and also because 
they were riding those machines which are always advertised to be the 
best, though they are not, in the world. But to make assurance doubly 
sure, no sooner was I within earshot than they called out, "Well, good- 
day ! " If, eventually, the Swiss do not learn the American language, it 
will not be the fault of the American. 

I sailed on down over a splendid road, traversed a deep gorge, and flew 
across the flimsiest of bridges. At the other end a strange thing happened. 
The good going ceased, the kilometre stones stopped, a customs officer 
rushed out. We were in Switzerland again, and at once on bad roads, 
and hindered and delayed by the petty persecutions of the native, the 
impetuous beggarly itch to make anything from a penny to a dollar that 
characterises every Swiss at home or abroad. Though the road to the 
Swiss frontier is excellent, and though we could perceive no diflFerence in 
the quality of the rain on the two sides, from the frontier to Martigny, 
gorgeous and grand in scenery, it is one of the vilest in Europe, outside 
of Cornwall and Devonshire, and, when we went over it, the muddiest. 



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LA TETE NOIRE 27 

The Swiss do nothing for which there is not a direct return. So long as 
a road is passable, so long as their horses and mules can drag a gaping 
crowd of Cook's tourists over it, nobody cares. In fact, it is better that 
it should be bad, because there is more chance of carriages breaking 
down, of pedestrians being forced to stop in the hotels that line the way. 
But what can you expect ? Did not Ruskin, years since, prophesy that 
the tourist would ruin the country and the people, and, if we can believe 
Byron, already long before Ruskin's day Switzerland was a " curst selfish 
swinish country of brutes"; if we can believe Shelley, the whole mass of 
the population already *' subsisted on the weakness and credulity of 
travellers as leeches subsist on the sick." Why, after that, no one can 
ever again object to my mild and absolutely truthful remarks. 

All I shall say about the Tete Noire as a pass is, if you are cycling, 
avoid it. It is the worst in the Alps, quite unridable as a whole in either 
direction. When you think you have got to the top beyond Argentierc, 
you only drop down again. Then you climb up through tunnels to the 
Xtte Noire hotel, only to drop down to Trient, and then you have the 
stifFest climb anywhere in Switzerland. As I pushed and panted through 
Trient, I heard a woman from over her washtub call out to her neigh- 
bour that it must be very painful to travel like that. It was painful. It 
was beastly. It would have been easier to carry my machine than to 
push it from Trient to the Col de la Forclaz — an ascent that ought to 
make me an honorary member of the Alpine Club, though it was J. 
who did get my wheel up the last zigzags. After this I was more im- 
pressed than ever with the wonders of the story of the three gentlemen 
who carried their machines for hundreds of miles through China. A 
few yards knocked J. up completely. His language was dreadful, and 



28 OVER THE ALPS ON A BICYCLE 

so was the road. The descent was worse. The short zigzags were ankle 
deep in mud, the clouds were as thick as a London fog, and presently 
they dissolved in torrents of rain. It was just then two or three dreary 
chalets loomed up through the greyness, and a little girl, with nice 
manners, a thick plait of hair coiled up at the back of her head, and a 
basket of fresh eggs and wild raspberries on her arm, asked us and the 
bicycles into her house. To pass the time, we ate her eggs. She cooked 
them, laid the cloth, and waited on us with a demure housewifely air that 
was really very pretty. Then she got out her knitting. There was 
another little girl in the room and a smaller boy, and a couple of bigger 
children loomed vaguely in the doorway. The mother came and sat 
down to put a patch in her husband's trousers, and the small boy cuddled 
up close to her. It was all as simple and sweet as could be. The rain 
pelted against the tiny window, and the mother told us of the cold winter 
when they moved to the valley below, of the death of the old grandfather, 
of the wanderings of their one cow. The result was, we gave the little 
girl, who kept the accounts — it was her way of helping, she said — a great 
deal more than we would have paid for a breakfast at the hotel above. 
But, after the rain had stopped and the clouds lifted, and the Rhone 
Valley unrolled itself like a map below, and we were wading once more 
through the mud, we met a series of the same little girl with nice manners, 
one pigtail, and wild raspberries, all the way down the zigzags. She was 
just a part of the Swiss stock-in-trade — like Tartarin's old soldier — to 
touch the hearts and empty the pockets of the tourist. 

The road, after it had finished zigzagging and joined the highway to 
the St. Bernard, was a trifle better and still down hill to Martigny. I 
coasted from here, and presently, below, I saw toiling up on his bicycle — 



! KHONB VALLBV f 



LA TfeTE NOIRE 31 

and he had not yet got on to the pass, poor man — a loi^e black figure, 
his hat in his hand. As he came near, he raised his head, and in well- 
known accents I heard, " Say, how's the road fur Shamminy ? " " You'll 
see," said J. So long as we have the great American language, where is 
the need of Volapuk ? 

Naturally, it cleared before we reached Martigny. We went to the 
French Touring Club hotel, and the rain coming down again after lunch, 
we had the pleasure of passing the afternoon in company with a family 
from Chicago, who divided the time between drinking champagne and 
listening to a musical box on which mechanical dolls danced for their 
delight. 

The English cycler does a good deal of boasting about his prowess 
and his rides and his times. But though we were five weeks riding 
over the Alps, we did not meet a single Englishman on a bicycle. And 
yet, that night at Martigny, no less than nine Americans turned up, all 
awheel. Save for one party of three and ourselves, the rest rode 
alone and were unknown to each other, and were all going in different 
directions. 



Ill 

•ys PJSS 

THE ST. BERNARD 

Well, we would not go over the St. Bernard again. It is the easiest 
and the hardest of all the passes. Rather, we did not go over it. I was 
so knocked up by the Tete Noire that I took a day off at Martigny, and 
thereby lost a bit of a record, for the monks at the top told J. that no 
woman had ever cycled there ; while J. did not go down the other side. 
He says that the ascent to the foot of the actual pass is so easy and 
gradual that you can ride all the way to the last Refuge, and the road 
is excellent. But in doing so, you play yourself out before you get no 
the pass, which is of great steepness, and mounts by very short zigzags 
among the snow. It took him seven hours from Martigny to the top, 
and he admits that he had had enough when he got to the Hospice. It 
was bitterly cold, though extremely picturesque. The pass was enveloped 
in^ clouds, snow was falling, the cold was intense, the monks were most 
hospitable, and the place swarmed with tourists. He walked by the 
little lakes to the Italian side, and looked down the steep track which 
disappeared in the thick mists boiling up. There was a veritable 
tourbillon of storm. He went to bed in his little double -windowed cell 
as soon as it was dark. In the morning, he coasted back again to 

3^ 



THE ST. BERNARD 35 

Martigiiy in about an hour and a half, and met me at breakfast. 
The coast, he reported, was splendid, but the scenery not very fine 
until near the top, and there is, according to the guide book, but a mule 
track down the Italian side for some miles. Save for Napoleonic 
sentimentalists and lovers of dogs — which he did not see, though he 
heard them — the pass is hardly worth doing on a cycle, and the convent 
IS a resort of the most noisy and alpenstocked of tourists. 



i 



IV 
MT FOURTH PJSS 

THE SIMPLON 

The same afternoon we started for the Simplon. We followed the 
straight-ruled line, the road we had seen from the Col de la Forclaz. 
But everybody goes up the Rhone Valley in the train, a few go on 
bicycles. As is the way with Alpine valleys, it is shut in by high 
mountains which shut out the view, and it is infested by tourists, 
and is fearfully hot. The road is bumpy, there is a gradual rise, but 
only at the upper end are there any hills worth speaking of. We 
got to Sion, to Visp, to Brieg, and the next morning were ready 
to start upon our first great pass by eleven, when, for our comfort, 
we ought to have been at the top. 

A blazing, blinding hot sun was shining, and the road beyond 
Brieg was shadeless and deep in dust. It set out in a business-like 
way from the very middle of the town to scale the lower green slopes. 
The heat was so fierce that the perspiration rolled in great drops from 
my face and the machine was like fire to my touch. I had to stop 
every few minutes to cool off, and once we both clambered over a 
fence and lay full length under a tree, watching the diligence come 
down in a whirlwind of dust and a cycler following at a speed that 



THE SIMPLON 39 

would have whirled him into eternity, but for the special providence 
that watches oyer the foolhardy wheelman as well as the drunkard. 
If it was odious to push up under the scorching sun, it was still more 









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insufTerable to sit there getting no further on our journey, I wish 
I could reconstruct my psychological emotions under these circum- 
stances. When I grumble, people think it is because I am not 
enjoying myself. But they do not understand. If a coach and six 



40 OVER THE ALPS ON A BICYCLE 

had been placed at my disposal that afternoon, I would not have 
taken it, though J. alone knows how ill-tempered I was. I had the 
grace to be ashamed, and I tried to explain my attitude to him. I 
hated what I was doing. I hated to walk, to push the machine, to 
be sweltering in July sunshine, and smothered in dust. But after it 
was over I knew I should be immensely proud of my achievement, and I 
was " game " to the end. He said that was the way you felt when you 
were climbing the high peaks — it was the true sporting spirit — and 
so we did what we could to make the best of my temper. 

The road left the slope to zigzag through woods that were no 
protection against the sun. Then it skirted the bare mountain side, 
and I pushed and I plodded, higher and higher, until I stopped in 
sheer exhaustion at a solitary house — the Second Refuge provided by 
Napoleon — and we ate our third substantial meal that day. It is 
amazing how much you can eat when you are crossing a pass. And 
then the road kept on winding along the brink of the precipice, with 
such a gradual ascent that for a while I rode, and could have ridden 
further, so well did the French engineers do their work, it the Swiss 
knew how to do theirs and could keep it in order. Then it crossed 
a bridge and went climbing up more steeply to Berisal, and more 
steeply still, and interminably beyond. The diligence overtook me, 
and so did a perambulator with a baby in it, and a French nurse 
from Berisal. I was furious. I watched the diligence crawling along, 
disappearing round a turn and reappearing further up, still crawling, 
but now like a big fly in a crack on the slopes. And I pushed and I 
plodded, past the Fourth and Fifth Refuges, while away below and behind, 
Brieg kept falling lower and lower and growing tinier and. tinier. And 



< 



THE SIMPLON 41 

I pushed and I plodded, until my shoulder ached with the perpetual 
pushing and my feet were like lead, to where a great glacier came 
flowing over the mountains, and patches of snow whitened the rocks 
to the right, and the road escaped into covered galleries from the water- 



falls that dashed and roared down all around it, and now and then 
broke even into the tunnels, giving me a good shower bath as I passed ; 
and on to the Sixth Refuge, and out upon a sort of open moorland. 
We were at the highest point of the pass, 6,595 feet above the sea. 



+2 OVER THE ALPS ON A BICYCLE , 

I had climbed, with my own legs, fifteen and a quarter miles from 
Brieg, and steadily for seven and a half hours to get there, and now 
I was there I did not care in the least about anything but the Hospice, 



TUB 5IMPLOK HOSPICE. 



where we hoped to spend the night, and the Hospice did not as much 
as show itself until we were almost at the door of the big building 
that stands back in its semicircle of peaks directly beneath a glacier. 
If Napoleon put it there to shelter the weary traveller 



no one 1 









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MEMORIAL CROSS ON THE SIMPLOK. 



THE NtlW YORK 

PUBLIC LIBRARY 



AS10-. • » NOX ANri 



THE SIMPLON 45 

'>etter rigHt than I to beg a night's lodging. I was never so dead 
^ired in my life. 

We rang the bell. A nice old monk came to the door, hurried us in, 

gave us time only to carry the bicycles up the steep flight of steps into 

Ae hall, and led us straight, hot and dirty as we were — he would hear 

of no washing — into a big dining-room, where he and three other monks 

Had just begun their supper. Down we sat with them. It was an 

excellent meal ; I have seldom tasted better ordinary wine. But the 

monks were abstemious — one touched nothing, devouring a newspaper 

instead — and we had not the courage of our appetites. I would rather, 

however, share a light meal with the monks of the Simplon than dine 

with the jfifty or sixty tourists you find any summer evening at the St. 

B;irnard, all eating and drinking like pigs, though probably in the 

morning they forget the collection box — their only bill — in the Chapel. 

But then the St. Bernard is no better nowadays than a pension ; the 

Simplon is still a genuine Hospice where you are not merely given food 

and drink and a bed, but arp entertained by the monks, as if it were 

their pleasure, not their duty. It made me think of the wonderful days 

spent long ago with the Padre Abate at Monte Oliveto, as we sat in the 

golden evening light, alone with the monks, they telling us of the long 

winter when only the diligence passes, of the busy summer when the 

poor labourer and the footsore tramp come in crowds. The tourist, as a 

rule, sleeps in Berisal or the village of Simplon. But with the first 

breath of spring the migration of Italian workmen begins — les hiron- 

J^l/es ^/'///^//V the monks called them. 

^ flock of these swallows was perched on the low stone wall opposite 
fhe H<^spice when we came downstairs after supper. And before we 



46 OVER THE ALPS ON A BICYCLE - \ 

went to bed a cart load of peasant women and a couple of nuns had 
been deposited at the door, a jaded dusty man on foot, with a great pack 
on his back, had dragged himself up the steps, and the diligence from 
Domo D'Ossola had dropped a man with a boy and a youth with a 
bicycle — that's the proper way to cycle up a pass ; you can even hire a 
carriage to carry your machine, if you want. The monks received 
everybody without a word, without a question. And what I liked most 
was that it was all done simply and quietly — so you could fancy the old 
monks, in days when they were almost the only innkeepers, welcomed 
the wanderer. But there is to be a railroad under the Simplon, and the 
Swiss will rejoice, no doubt, when they have lost one of the few genuine 
things left to them. 

We slept in a large airy bedroom where the furniture, like the 
building, dated back to the First Empire. Outside the double window 
was a desolation such as the Prophet never dreamed of ; inside were beds 
and tables and chairs that a collector might carry away in triumph. 

It was bitter cold in the morning, an icy wind blowing over the 
glacier, snow all around us. We passed the old Hospice, a grim, 
weather-beaten stone house with a tower, in a much more exposed 
position, a little further on, showing Napoleon's good sense in choosing 
the present site. You do not know what a great man he was, even if 
you have read Professor Sloane, until you have gone over the Alps on a 
bicycle. Napoleon's cleverness seemed nothing to mine when I put my 
feet on the rests and coasted down the road he had hung in mid-air. 
And there was no question of my courage. The occasional memorial 
cross on the Simplon, put up to mark the spot, f)erhaps, where the 
traveller had been lost in the snow or pitched over the precipice, 



THE SIMPLON 49 

was an eloquent reminder that the danger was not all imaginary. But 
the pneumatic was pumped up tight, and I held the front brake by 
means of an ingenious and simple device with a leather strap, that left 
some power and feeling in my right hand and arm. For kilometres, 
with only occasional intervals of back-pedalling, I coasted after J. — too 



far after he said — down the side of the mountain ; down the long zig- 
zags, where the driver of the diligence, with unexpected courtesy, gave 
me the inner, which was the wrong side of the road, but then he was an 
Italian ; through the Ravine of Gondo, with waterfalls booming above 
and the stream thundering below, and the road crossing and crossing 



50 OVER THE ALPS ON A BICYCLE 

again over airy bridges, and clinging to the side of the precipice, and 
diving into dark tunnels, and taking sharp turns round the walls of 
rocks, just where carriages were creeping up; to the Swiss frontier, where 
the custom officer forced back our money upon us. We wanted to wait 
until we left Switzerland for good and for all. But he said, and as a 
Swiss he must have known, we had better take it when we could get it. 
And I coasted down through the pines, down through the chestnuts, 
into a land of vineyards and tropical heat, when little more than an hour 
before I had been shivering. 

At Isella was the Italian custom house, where the officer did not 
browbeat us, but understood at once that the Signore and Signora were 
travellers, and for a lira and a half presented us with a document big and 
ponderous enough to have seen a whole army through the country. 

Like Heine's Philistine, I began to sing my little Ti-ri-li of 
exultation to find myself in Italy again. It seemed to me the sky was 
more tender, the landscape more luxuriant, the people more graceful. I 
was thinking out an elegant phrase for my note book, and attempting to 
pass a cart, when, the first thing I knew, the bicycle had caught in deep 
sand at the side of the road, and I was over in front and the back wheel 
of the bicycle was under the cart, and there I was, miles and miles from 
a repair shop, with the rim bent out of shape, the wheel buckled and the 
frame twisted. In fact, the machine looked more like the folding 
bicycle of the French army than the Rover I had been riding a second 
before, and I thought I should have to carry it to the nearest railway 
station, which was I did not know how far away. But J. took hold of 
it, shook it viciously, kicked it, pulled it about, and it recovered itself 
almost miraculously — all but the rim. It was ridable, but I went with a 



■ 



:<-, K. ^- 






\ 



THE SIMPLON 



THE SIMPLON 53 

iimping, dot-carry-one action which was as quaint as unusual. The next 
party of" Americans we met shoving up thought it was some strange 
foreign invention, and said so in our great universal language. How- 
ever, I managed to ride to the wonderful curve in the road that gives 
that first perfect view of the Val D'Ossola ; on to Domo D'Ossola for 
lunch ; on across the valley fighting a mad wind ; on round the shores 
of Lago JVIaggiore ; on to Baveno. Across the Lake at Intra was a 
factory, and a mechanic clever enough to put a new rim on an old wheel. 
This, for the sake of sensation I regret to say, was the one big smash 
of the ride, and it happened, not on a Pass, but on a nearly level stretch 

of t-riiirl 



MY FIFTH PASS 



THE SPLUGEN 



As I had journeyed half across Europe not to go round lakes but to 
ride over the Alps on a bicycle, and as Italy was hot as a furnace, 
we took a boat to Laveno, rode the short distance to Varese and 
Como — the population in the little villages mobbing us just as in 
the old days when we wheeled our tandem through Tuscany, a primeval 
episode which, though we told the story almost a generation ago, is 
practically unknown, like all great adventures — and at Como, after 
lunching on risotto^ we took another boat up the lake. 

We chose this route to the Spliigen to see if Como is really as 
romantic as our sentimental grandfathers have told us. But when 
the boat started, what I saw was J. in his shirt sleeves, rivers of per- 
spiration streaming from his face, up to his elbows in a bucket ot 
water, hunting for a puncture in his tyre, which had collapsed the 
minute we had come on board. But to judge by the passengers, the 

m 

puncture was much more entertaining than the lake. The tourists ot 
all countries crowded around him, and they wanted to know all about 
it, and what he did with the pneumatic brake, and why he had a gear- 
case, and various other intricate things, just when the bicycle was 

54 



I 



1 r> 



iT^>- 



s 



I^ • 



\ 



THE SPLUGEN 57 

standing upside down, and he had both hands and the tyre plunged 
in the water. I do not know what might have happened, if with a lurch 
of the boat, the bucket had not turned over right on the top of them. 
And there was not a puncture to be found, and no sooner was the tyre 
pumped up again than it collapsed again. It was maddening. We 
landed at Varenna and took the bicycle to the local blacksmith, who 
hung out the sign of the Italian Touring Club. But, apparently, the 
Italian Club gives its sign to any one who happens to fancy it as a 
decoration, and we might as well have asked the blacksmith to talk 
American as to mend a broken tyre. The result was that in the 
morning at dawn J. was on his way by boat to Como and a repair 
shop, where there was somebody who knew something, and we both saw 
a good deal more of the same part of the lake than we then wanted 
to, even if it did come up to its romantic reputation. It was three in 
the afternoon when he got back to Varenna with a new valve, for it was 
the valve, and not the tyre that had gone wrong, and we could start for 
our fifth pass. 

Waiting on the wharf when he landed were two women with 
bicycles — the only two we met touring from the moment we left 
Dieppe until, five weeks later, we bought our tickets home at 
Calais. I do not count a big German Frau in knickerbockers and 
many bangles, and what the English call a " fringe net " over her 
elaborately curled front hair, a pistol and a sketch-book at her waist, 
who, with her hands in her pockets, swaggered about the boat going 
up Lake Como. I should have had to see her on a machine to believe 
in her. The other two were Americans, though one was disguised in 
the green Austrian mountain dress, and a green felt hat to match, with 



58 OVER THE ALPS ON A BICYCLE 

a cock's feather stuck in the back. They also were doing the passes, 
they said ; they had already carried their bicycles through the Tyro! 
in the train, and had walked up and down the Maloja Pass, We did 
not have to tell them what we had done — they knew. They had read 



i 



I 



our old story, and remembered it. The one in green came running 

back to tell us so. It may have been foolish, but we liked her for it. 

From Varenna to Colico we were on the road an Italian cycler had 

described as splenaida ! spletidissima ! And splendid it was — eighteen 




£ 



d 



4<- .-' 



jrf'- 



WINDINGS OF THE SPLUgEN. 



f^^ ' % 



^ 



THE NEW Y ,. . 






I 



THE SPLCGEN 6i 

kilometres of perfect road, perfectly engineered, in perfect condition, 
keeping close to the lake, tunnelling its way through the rocks where 
the less skilful engineer would have sent it winding over the mountains. 
It was much less easy going from Colico to Chiavienna, where the 
long climb up the Spliigen begins. We were called at five the next day, 
and were ofF by six, to get to the top in the cool of the morning. There 
was no sun, and the valley was already hot and close with the muggy 
closeness of a coming storm. I walked almost at once. I suppose that, 
without luggage, and if I had taken my time to it, I could have ridden 
up this, or any one of the great passes. But I carried luggage, and 
plenty of it. Besides, on the Spliigen, I could always see the stifFer 
climb that was ahead of me. It was positively cruel the way the road 
seemed to brag of its steepness, I could watch its course for kilometres 
up the valley, as it mounted and mounted in tier above tier, through 
gallery above gallery, in places like a series of terraces cut in the rocky 
steeps, with no trace of the windings that connected them, so that to 
me below the mystery was ever how we were to ascend with our 
bicycles from one to the other. Little footpaths ran straight up the 
mountain, sometimes in a precipitate flight of stairs, waterfalls crashed 
and tumbled in endless white lines down the rocks, campanile-crowned 
villages perched on dizzy heights. The engineers of the Emperor 
Francis may have been no better than those of Napoleon, but they 
were more sensational. Their pass was actually not so hard to push 
up as the Simplon, but it looked harder with its endless stone parapet 
in long lines and zigzags and curves, mounting and mounting. The 
Emperor himself seems to have been impressed, for he set a big slab 
in the rocks near one of the galleries to let you know that he built it. 



62 OVER THE ALPS ON A BICYCLE 

We ate a second breakfast at Campodolcino, and I doggedly trudged 
on, now through a thick, cold, wet mist. Clouds blotted out the valley, 
the opposite mountains, everything but the nearest windings and zigzags 
of that terrible stone parapet. And, to make matters worse, the wet 
and the steady up-grade between them brought on a cramp in my leg, 
and every time I put my foot to the ground the pain cut like a knife. 
There was a little French soldier who told me once that for men to 
march with knapsacks on their backs, tiens ! it was to march like the 
beasts. The phrase came back to me. To walk up an Alpine pass, 
through the rain, in a mackintosh, pushing a bicycle, was to walk like 
the beasts. The kilometre stones showed me how slow the pace was, 
tall poles I did not understand pointed out unknown dangers, and from 
the forlorn chalets half-savage children ran out, and fell in behind me 
chanting in an undertone what sounded like a dirge, but probably was 
a demand for centessimi, I doubt if I realised the misery of that 
tramp, until a bit of fairly level road gave me a chance to ride, when 
the riding along a slippery track, with my mackintosh flapping about 
me, and water dripping from my hat into my eyes, seemed heaven by 
contrast. 1 managed to keep on my machine as far as the Italian 
custom house, where we delivered over our papers and ate our lunch 
in a little close, dark cafe^ with a wonderful collection of old hats and 
men under them. 

After that, there were three more kilometres ot zigzags, and clouds, 
and mud, and soppy green slopes, and it was about as gloomy and 
nasty as it could be. I passed a wretched stone hut, used as a 
shelter for shepherds, and the Hospice, which was tight shut, and 
finally two poles marking the frontier, at a height of 6,946 feet 



( 



t 



i 



iPUBLIC Linn An ■ 






^ 



1 



THE SPLUGEN 65 

Immediately and abruptly the descent began, and I was on a bumpy, 
rutty road, with no kilometre stones, no poles, no parapet. The 
zigzags were the steepest and the curves the sharpest I had come to 
yet, and for me there was very little coasting down the Spliigen. 
I cannot say which was the more alarming, to be riding on the 
zigzags or to be looking down upon them as they lay there, shame- 
lessly exposed, and with J. always ahead, leaning out over the edge 
at a blood-curdling angle. Below, where the windings lengthened, 
I could not coast with much comfort, for the road was muddier and 
rattier than ever, and covered with stones, and lower still, full of dreary 
and disconsolate tourists. 

At Spliigen we were driven into the Swiss custom house and kept 
there kicking our heels for an hour and a half, for no apparent reason 
except to make us feel at home in Switzerland again. We had found 
out that the one thing the Swiss custom officer wanted was a number on 
each machine, and as nothing else would satisfy him J. made a note of 
one on his gear case and another on my saddle. He was really too 
conscientious, for the officer entered them solemnly in the paper he 
handed to us, without looking at the machines, and I might as well say 
now that when eventually we left the country at Bale, no one there made 
the least effort to verify the numbers. The whole thing was a farce, and 
the most absurd part of it was that at all the frontier stations the officers 
were so taken up with these empty formalities it never occurred to 
them that we carried luggage on our bicycles. Our bags were never 
opened. We might have smuggled in all the brandy and cigars and 
matches and watches we wanted, and no one would have been the wiser. 
But was it not another absurdity that, though J. wore a watch worth far 

S 



66 OVER THE ALPS ON A BICYCLE 

more than the bicycle, and much easier to sell, and though watch-making 
is the great native industry calling for protection if anything does, no 
one ever bothered about it ? Truly the custom house, especially the 
Swiss custom house, is hard to understand. 



VI 



MY SIXTH PASS 



THE SAN BERNARDINO 



In the morning, long before the sun was above the mountains, we were 
on the San Bernardino. A pass a day was now to be our average, an 
average that Hannibal or Napoleon or Tartarin might have been proud 
of. As at Hinter Rhein we had already reached a height of 5,302 feet, 
according to Baedeker, there were but 1,466 feet more to the top of 
the pass. But if it sounded a mere trifle after the tramp of the day 
before, it meant after all ten kilometres of steady shoving. And how 
those first zigzags through the dense pine forest lengthened themselves 
out when I was on them ! And how aimlessly and indefinitely the road 
above the tree level seemed to be trying to run round itself over the 
rocky plateau ! And how hot the sun was before I had reached the 
Hospice and the lake at the summit ! And there was no mistaking 
the seriousness of the San Bernardino when we began to descend. 
Three mountain sides of zigzags were waiting for us, one imme- 
diately below the other. The first was all stones and tourists, and 
an occasional diligence. The Swiss, with their usual ingenuity, have 
decided that the foreigner must work as well as pay his way over the 

Alps, and so they repair their roads, which means dumping down 

67 



68 OVER THE ALPS ON A BICYCLE 

great cartloads of stones anywhere and anyhow, m August, at the 
height of the season. With both brakes on and my feet on the 
pedals, I slipped and jolted round the turns, all the time ringing 
my bell, for the tourist in Switzerland never sees further than his 



WINDINGS OP 1 



own nose, always walks in the middle of the road, and is stone deif, 
Here he — or she as often — was mostly Italian or German, as he is usually 
English at Zermatt, American at Chamounix. Each nation, apparently, 
has appropriated its own special bit of the playground of Europe, and 
round it drawn a rigid line to mark the limits of the game. Beyond the 



THE SAN BERNARDINO 69 

village of San Bernardino we met no tourists, which was a good thing, 
for the way was dangerous enough without them. 

The view down upon the second series of zigzags was awful. The 



road seemed to tilt downward at the same angle as the mountain,- and to 
uncoil itself like some monstrous serpent over the bare grassy slopes. It 
looked as if only a Blondin could walk where I must steer my bicycle. 



70 OVER THE ALPS ON A BICYCLE 

And always in front was J., doomed by every known law of gravitation 
to pitch headlong. It would not have been so bad had I seen no further 
than the corner I was turning, for I had full control of my machine. 
But I was always in a panic at the prospect of the next curve, the next 
winding, and every stray goat, though it was more frightened than I, 



added to my terror. But 1 got to the bottom safe and sound, and to 
the bottom of the next zigzags, and it was all easy after that, coasting 
through a wonderful valley, where the castle-crowned hills, the winding 
stream, .the waterfalls breaking in airy clouds of spray, and the rich 
wooded mountains arranged and re-arranged themselves into com- 
positions that some day ought to make the Val Mesocco the Holy Land 



THE SAN BERNARDINO 7!. 

of revived romanticism. And I coasted until of a sudden a gale of 
wind roared up the valley right into my face. 

When we came to where the St. Gotthard road joins the San 
Bernardino to run on with it to Bellinzona, we turned straight back north- 
ward, for the St. Gotthard was our next pass. But a stifFer gale blew 
own the Val Ticino, and the road was all stones again, and we got no 
further that evening than Bodio, about twenty kilometres on the way. 



VII 



MT SEVENTH PASS 



THE ST GOTTHARD 



In the early morning the valley was black with smoke and smelt strong 
of coal dust. The road and the railway ran side by side for a while, 
occasionally crossing each other, when invariably we were detained by a 
freight train that had started out from Bodio with us. It was a regular 
race in the end ; the engine-driver was always craning his neck, on the 
lookout for our bicycles, as we waited behind the closed gates. Higher 
up in the valley the train disappeared into a tunnel, and we were sure we 
had seen the last of it ; but higher up still, after we had walked a stiff 
upgrade, out it came from another tunnel on a level with the road, 
though how in the world it climbed there, and what it had been doing 
all that time, and where it had been wandering in the insides of the 
mountain, was the mystery. Then we lost it again in a narrow gorge 
with space only for the stream and the high overhanging road cut out of 
the rock, and overtook it again at a higher point beyond. And so we 
lost and overtook, or were overtaken by it, throughout the morning. 
Or sometimes it puffed by hundreds of feet below, sometimes hundreds 
of feet above ; now it was on one side of the valley, now on the other ; 
now going with us, now running away from us. You must travel by 



^2 



> THE ROAD OVER THE ST. COTTHARt). 




/ 










1 

1 



'. OOTTHARD. 



IpuPLicLiBr.'-r 



A»SToR. ItNOX A^JD 
TtuDLN FO'JNOaV )M 



THE ST. GOTTHARD -j-j 

road to realise the wonder of the St. Gotthard railway. When it was 
out of sight there was no forgetting it ; the black smoke hung over the 
valley, the smell of coal dust filled it, and everywhere were the signs of 
the change its coming had worked. Old posting inns and chalets were 
falling into ruins by the roadside. We did not meet a diligence, not a 
wagon, not a carriage^ and only one tourist — a German on a bicycle, 
who tore past like a cyclone. There was not time to see his face, but 
who, save a German, would carry on his own back a bag that might as 
easily be strapped to his wheel } 

There were plenty of tourists, though, in the little towns with 
convenient stations. Faido was full of them ; they blocked the way 
into Airolo, where we almost killed a row of solemn, frock-coated, top- 
hatted men, who may have been senators; but bicycles coming down hill 
at twenty miles an hour would not stop for the whole Italian Govern- 
ment in the flesh. Still no one was hurt. 

For days I had said, on the St. Gotthard I could take the railway if I 
was tired. But I rode almost all the way to Airolo. After Airolo, 
where the railway set out on its wonderful short cut through the 
mountain, I walked, and so did J. I have travelled into Italy by the 
St. Gotthard line several times, but never have I had the proper respect 
for it until that afternoon when we saw a train swallowed up in the great 
tunnel, and then walked above it for hours and hours before we reached 
the top of the pass it was burrowing through beneath us. We mounted 
and mounted and mounted up long zigzags, through woods, past two 
forts ; we mounted a high, barren valley above the zigzags ; we mounted 
an endless road and crept along the mountain side, shadeless and blazing 
hot, and wherever there was a spring, we sat down and drank ; if the 



78 OVER THE ALPS ON A BICYCLE 

dangers of glacier water are half as great as they are said to be, we 
should never have survived. 

By a lonely Refuge, which I foolishly hoped meant the top, there was 
a sharp turn, and I was under piled-up peaks, and now there came both 
snow and ice, and it grew wondrous cold, and I shivered before the 
perspiration was dry on my face. On the opposite steep, short zigzags 
went up like stairs among the cliffs. I could have dropped at the sight. 
But when a cart passed and the driver offered my bicycle a place by the 
side of two Germans bowed under their knapsacks, but clutching their 
alpenstocks, I refused ; I was doing this thing myself; I had not come 
to have it done for me. Carriages toiled after me, but the people had 
got out and were scrambling up the rocky footpaths. Carriages toiled 
down, and once two brave women on foot, in bloomers, with bags on 
their backs — Germans, of course. When one series of zigzags came to 
an end another began, and they kept getting shorter and steeper and 
stonier. I felt that if I once stopped, it would be all up with me ; the 
wind struck like a blow ; and J. told me he was never so near 
collapsing. Altogether the St. Gotthard realised my idea of what a pass 
should be more than any I had crossed, or was to cross later. It was not 
the highest on our route ; 6,942 feet is its guide book measure, and to 
this, the Furka adds 1,051 feet. But on none other had I the same 
impression of having climbed to the top of everywhere. 

However, the top of everywhere being in Switzerland, we found an 
inn, furnished with the correct assortment of dining-rooms : one down- 
stairs for the guides and couriers ; a second upstairs, to the left, for the 
Swiss native, on this occasion military chiefly — ^some dozen oflficers, the 
whole strength of the Swiss army, I should say ; and a third, to the 




fixes' 



FAIDO, ST. COTTHAKD. 






ORK 



/ 






-3. 



1 



THE ST. GOTTHARD 8i 

right, for the foreign tourist. Castes in India are nothing to price 
distinctions in Switzerland. A flock of Italian women, led by one man, 
came in with us and called loudly for grog and postcards. Everybody 
called for postcards. After Rousseau set the fashion, people wept over 
the sublimities of Nature which they could not see for their tears ; now 
they turn their backs upon the spectacle and let their feelings loose upon 
illustrated postcards. 

When we went out a German cycler, in yachting cap, was at the 
door, tying a huge plank of wood, shaped liked a paddle, to his back 
wheel. He explained the " system," and we showed him our brakes. 
" Excellent," said he, *' though in time sure to destroy the tyres." We 
said we would rather any day risk our tyres than our lives. This struck 
him as a new and original argument worth considering. ^But he had 
worked out a theory — he was a German — and so he took stronger string 
and tied his paddle on all the tighter. He was going the other way, and 
I missed the catastrophe. 

There is an easy side for the cycler down every one of the great 
passes, and the easy side down the St. Gotthard is the northern. It was 
coasting all the way ; round the lakes at the top ; for kilometres along 
the road skirting the mountain ; even down the zigzags into ^Jospenthal ; 
and after that easy riding across the valley to Andermatt. Coasting and 
easy riding, that is, when there were no stones on the road. When there, 
were I liked to have my feet on the pedals. I did not care to chance a 
sudden sideslip into a gutter only a few thousand feet deep. It was 
coasting again after Andermatt and the opening of the gorge, where, 
according to your fancy, you can look at the Devil's Bridge or buy a St. 
Bernard dog at the near shop. There is another fort just here. If ever 

6 



8i OVER THE ALPS ON A BICYCLE 

Switzerland goes to war again, the enemy niay march unmolested through 
the valley of the Ticino or the Reuss, but he will never climb the St. 
Gotthard and capture the hotel with its tourists and its postcards. We 
started through the gorge, but the thought that we were back-pedalling 



LAKES, TOP C 



down, only to climb it in the morning, was too much for us, and sent us 
back again to Andermatt before we had gone half way. 

At Andermatt I learned a little more of the peculiarities of Swiss 
hotel keepers. We put up in a sham chalet that looked modest and 
was comfortable, though full of Germans. Why is it that the German, 



♦ 7 •• > , 



i , 



- / 






'-^> 



! DEVIL 3 BKlDCe, 'I 






- »- <_ 



/.- 






'*. 1 



THE ST. GOTTHARD 87 

who has such admirable qualities at home, becomes a public nuisance 
when he travels ? Next door was a big hotel with gold-laced porters 
and English speaking waiters. But the coffee for our breakfast was 
brought from the hotel, and as we were loading our bicycles we saw a 
procession of servants carrying coffee, butter, bread, honey, napkins 
from one house to another. The proprietor had merely improved upon 
the three dining-rooms plan, and had his two hotels with the same food 
and different prices. We got in the wrong one by accident and were 
extremely comfortable, and fared better and paid less than usual. 



VIII 



MY EIGHTH PASS 



THE FURKA 



The Furka was our highest pass. To prepare for it we ate a second 
breakfast at Realp, at the other end of the valley, where the road begins 
its long windings up the mountain. There we met an Italian who had 
just come down on his bicycle and could tell us all about it, and we sat 
talking until valley and slopes glowed red hot in ten o'clock sunshine, 
and most of the tourists were already kilometres beyond and above. 

While we were still on the first zigzags, we could see their carriages 
on the higher windings, and then finally on the sky line, apparently on 
a narrow ridge at the very top of the mountain, where it looked as if at 
the first puflF of wind they must go plunging over into space. It was 
one steady grind through dust and ruts, with as little variety in the 
mountain side as in the road that scaled it. We had long since left 
the trees for this unvarying waste of rocks and stones and boulders, 
as solitary and savage as the " inaccessible haunt " Byron made the 
fashion for his morbid heroes, when there appeared in the road before 
us a smiling youth in a straw hat, and over his shoulders a short 
alpenstock, from which dangled a ladylike little bag, an umbrella, and a 
big paper valise of a pattern invented by the German. 



88 



THE FURKA 89 

" Say ! " he remarked in the common language of the Alps, " have 

you seen my sister?" 

It was sublime — 7,000 feet — and we felt, with a thrill of patriotism, 

American. There is no morbid nonsense about your modern hero ; he 



is not to be discountenanced by any mere mountain. It happened that, 
two or three zigzags below, I had seen a young lady sprawling full 
length by the roadside. The description answered ; he recognised her. 
Two staring white placards among the boulders advertised a couple of 



90 OVER THE ALPS ON A BICYCLE 

rival hotels somewhere higher in the waste ; the Swiss can give the 
company promoter a' tip in the art of advertisement. We were far 
beyond the topmost zigzag, which was not near the real summit, when 
we reached the first hotel. We did not like it ; I felt sure we could get 
nothing there but view ; and we tramped on, at the dizziest distance 
above a stony valley, to the second. If I had not liked that, I must 
have stopped, anyway. I could not have gone a step further. Outside 
was a confusion of carriages and hostlers and dogs ; inside, a confusion 
of tongues. We sat at table with a party of our countrywomen, who 
drank beer as recklessly as the German Frau, and found fault with their 
food as furiously as the man on the Mississippi steamboat who wasn't 
used to good living at home, but. Great Scott ! when he paid fifty cents 
for his dinner he was going to have a square meal ! 

We waited until the carriages had trailed their dust far up and down 
the long slanting line of the road, and then we went on, I always 
walking, always pushing. Another steady grind through dust and ruts, 
above the grimmest of grim valleys, and I was on a bleak platform, 
among snowy peaks, 7,993 feet above the sea. And the American was 
seated on the topmost crag. " Howdy ? " said he. He had passed 
me somehow, and " sister " was lost again. 

The road, instead of ascending higher, turned a corner, and now in 
front of me was the bold, beautiful outline of the Bernese Oberland, and 
the streams went running and leaping toward the Rhone Valley, and we 
coasted carefully to where the Rhone Glacier swept, a frozen hurricane, 
over the mountains, and the road took precipitate flight down the break- 
neck slope below us, zigzagging as it went. Tourists were staring at the 
glacier through opera glasses or having it pointed out to them by 



1 



«H0». Ol»a.« .ROM TH, ,„^_^ j,^„„. 






/ 



irVT: r . , 







THE FURKA 



93 

guides, and if I ventured to stop, some one was offering to take me oii 
or under or above it for a franc. The first zigzag had brought my feet 
to the pedals, so steep was it, and the people made the long, endless 



I GLACIER PROM 1 



descent doubly perilous. Nor did 1 dare to coast on the fairly straight 
stretch of road beyond, nor, for that matter, to stay on my machine 
when a carri^e passed, in such an unsf)eakable condition was the way. 
Some idea of its badness may be had from the fact that the Swiss 



94 OVER THE ALPS ON A BICYCLE 

Government had actually set two men to mend it, with a broom and 
a hoe. 

I thought the descent more perilous than ever, when, from the Rhone 
Glacier Hotel, I watched other cyclers tackle it ; six or seven in all, and 
only one coasting with ease. He had a pneumatic brake like ours. 
The others controlled their machines by the most laborious contrivances, 
the simplest being to back pedal with the right foot, while the left was 
lifted up and pressed firmly on the front tyre. And I suppose they 
were all rejoicing over the pound or so saved in weight by not carrying 
brakes. It added to our comfort to sit there, conscious of a good day's 
work done and a room secured in the attic, and to see them one after the 
other turned away from a hotel full to overflowing ; some to tear down 
to Brieg, others to press on tediously up the Grimsel. It was a 
judgment for not having brakes. With brakes, they might have 
beaten me, and been given the only room in the hotel. 



> 

) 



IX 



Mr NINTH PASS 



THE GRIMSEL 



The Grimsel did not seem so tedious when I made my ascent in the 
morning. The pass is higher than the Spliigen and the St. Got t hard — 
7,103 feet. But at the Rhone Glacier Hotel, our starting place, most of 
the climbing had been done. From there, it is only about ten 
kilometres up. We were about two hours on the zigzags to the top. 
There was barely time to be tired, and if I could expend my best bad 
language on the road, it did provide entertainment in the variety of 
its views back upon the glacier. 

But of the descent on the other side, what can I say, except that it 
was a coast of some forty kilometres — twenty -five miles ! Think of it ! 
And, on the whole, an easy coast. A post carriage did its best to run me 
down on the first zigzag, under the sheer walls of rock where Tyndall 
almost lost his life. But I let my bicycle go faster than ever before, 
down to the dark lakes and the Hospice in the high naked valley ; down 
through the gorge beyond, the Bernese Alps towering in front and 
behind, the road winding and unwinding, now on the bare difFs, now on 
the tiny narrow strips of pasture land. The whole descent was so rapidly 
accomplished that I remember it only as one long flight among 



95 



96 OVER THE ALPS ON A BICYCLE 

mountains that changed with lightning speed. I was obliged to slow 
up but two or three times : once, when we passed a herd of cattle with 
a black bull browsing right by the roadside — " the sweet bells of the 



THE HOSPICE C 



sauntering herd " may be music to the poet, but on an Alpine pass 1 
would rather hear any other sound ; and again, when we overtook the 
tourists stalking along in the middle of the road, their conduct far less 
gentlemanly than that of the bull, who at least did keep out of my way; 



( i- « < 



% \ 






^k"! 



A8TOH. LEN'OX aO 
TiLDtH fOUNOATiUNS. 



L, 



THE GRIMSEL 99 

and, worst of alJ, when I met the diligence and post wagons, and the 
drivers wouJd not give me any space at all on either side of the road, 
and then threatened J. with a whip because we tried to walk by. Except 
ror these halts, we coasted on, past waterfalls, under overhanging cliffs 
and cornices of rock, through tunnels, from the narrow defile, down, and 
down, and down, and down, and down, into wider valleys ; and on, and 
on, until it was a positive relief to take my feet from the rests and work 
and walk up the big hill just before Meiringen. 






MY TENTH PASS 



THE BRUNIG 



We were in Meiringen by half-past ten ; we let a shower pass ; we 
ate our breakfast. It was still early. I was still fresh. I made up 
my mind, and induced J., to do two passes that day, or die in the 
attempt, and we rushed down the valley to the foot of the Brunig, 
a baby among passes, but 3,396 feet high, with a road over it, I had 
been told, like a cinder-track. We lost the railway in the woods to 
our right. Lake Brienz was already far below to our left, and we 
were too high on the pass to turn back, when the heavens opened, 
and down came the deluge. Our mackintoshes against it were no 
better than paper. We stood under a tree — we might as well have 
stood under a waterfall. We walked, for the cinder-track was a 
running stream. In ten minutes we were wet to the skin, in another 
five J. was deadly ill ; he always collapses somewhere, somehow, on 
these trips. We waded through water, we stuck in the mud. We 
could not see anything, we did not know how far we had got, nor 
how long we had been getting there, but it made no difFerence. We 
stopped at the first inn we came to without asking any questions. 



100 



THE BRUNIG loi 

nor were we tempted to go further by a glimpse of a huge hotel 
emerging from the near clouds. 

By good luck we had stumbled into the decentest inn, I do believe, 
in all Switzerland. The landlady grudged nothing that she did for 
us, and we made her do pretty nearly everything. She did not look 
at us with hungry eyes of calculation, but lavished her attentions out 
of pure goodness of heart — never doled them out with the average 
waiter's or chambermaid's greed for probable tips. She carried away 
to the kitchen our wardrobe in one draggled, dirty^ muddy heap, 
staggering under its weight, but her trouble and the fire found no 
place in our bill the next day. She brought us clothes, the skirt of 
her best gown and a shawl for me, her husband's black trousers 
and socks for J. She offered us pie. She talked to us in broken 
American, and there, really, was the explanation of the rest. She 
had lived long enough in America to forget her Swiss manners. 

It was not much after one, but the landlady's clothes were a 
shocking misfit ; we were chilled to the bones, and we went to bed 
and spent the afternoon there, staring out upon the deluge, while 
some one downstairs turned a hand-organ, grinding out funereal 
polkas and waltzes. To such degrading depths of inactivity had the 
baby pass and the road like a cinder-track reduced us. 

Clouds everywhere in the morning, and a thick wet mist. But 
we were off at seven, and, after a walk of three minutes, on our 
machines, so near had we been, without knowing it, to the top of 
the pass. In fact we had climbed two passes in one day. Instead of 
the usual Hospice, a railway station marked the summit, but this does 
not detract from my performance. I doubt if any woman, or many 



I02 OVER THE ALPS ON. A BICYCLE 

men, have climbed the Grimsel and the Brunig in a morning.: People 
may object that I rode too fast. But I had not come out to play 
the enthusiast and record my emotions on postcards ; I had come to 
ride over the Alps on a bicycle, and I had ridden so well that now 
I was on the last pass of all; 

We coasted down a road too good to be spoiled even by eighteen 
hours* rain. But dismal ! Nothing but mist, and dripping wet 
woods, and damp tourists, sitting • on damp benches waiting patiently 
for the view, or straggling all over the road, swearing if we rang 
our bell and asked for a foot to pass. Signs pointed to where all 
sorts of mountains ought to be seen, sign-posts directed to finer 
sites of observation. And there was no view, for all the prepara- 
tions ; none from the Brunig, none from Lungern, none from the 
Sarnen See, For us," there was a delightful coast, but nothing to 
look at, save clouds and gradually dissolving mist. 

We rode through Sarnen, through Alpnach, by the station of 
the railroad up Mont Pilatus. Mont Pilatus itself had retired out of 
sight. There was no view. The railroad, like a Jacob's ladder, might 
have led into heaven for all we knew ; a train started straight up 
into the clouds. It was as if the Swiss, who puts a turnstile at the 
mouth of his gorges and labels his glaciers, had hung a curtain in 
front of the spectacle of Lucerne. 

We struggled through mud on the road that runs low on the 
shores of the lake, under high walls of rock. We rattled over the 
pav^ into the town. Pilatus sullenly kept out of sight, the Jungfrau 
was off duty for the day. There was no view. We ate our lunch 
in a restaurant on the river banks, we " did " the sights of the town, 



THE BRUNIG '°3 

we had some money changed. But still there was no Pilatus, no 
Jungfrau, no view. We had crossed our last pass, we had looked 
our last upon the Alps ; they had gone completely. We never saw 
them again. 



ENVOI 

I AM told I have made a record. I think I have, and one to be 
proud of. I went over nine passes — six in less than a week. I worked 
at times as hard as a dock labourer. Dock labourer ! The dock 
labourer growls eight hours a day and loafs the others ; I often worked 
sixteen. I was scorch?d by the sun, stifled by the dust, drenched by the 
rain. Long kilometres of climbing were the price paid for every coast. 
What was the good of it, you ask. No good at all ! And here you have 
the great beauty of the ride. There are moments and moods when you 
must toil for your holiday as for your daily bread. One man finds his 
happiness in goading a donkey up hill and down ; another in pushing 
his wheel over the Alps. Besides, I wanted to see if I could cross the 
Alps on a bicycle. I did, and any woman who rides — and knows how 
to ride — a good strong machine fitted with a good strong brake on 
each wheel, who will be wise enough not to let it get away with her 
on the down grade, nor to play herself out by riding it on a long 
steep ascent, and who is not afraid of work, may learn what pleasure 
there is in the exploit. But all these conditions must be fulfilled, 

otherwise I can answer neither for her wheel nor her life. 

105 



THE ROUTE 

Switzerland, as well as France and Italy, may be entered at any one 
of Its many frontier stations free by cyclers accompanied by their wheels 
upon presentation of The Cyclists' Touring Club, or Touring Club de 
France, ticket. Members of the first organisation are saved numerous 
petty restrictions enforced by the latter. The bicycle must also, to 
obtain free entry, have a number legibly stamped on some undetach- 
able part of the frame. On leaving the country the tourist must be 
careful to hand in at the customs house, and get a receipt for, the papers 
given him on entering. Cyclers who do not belong to these organisa- 
tions must pay duty on entering the country. 

The Swiss Touring Club is allied to the C.T.C., the T.C.F., and 
the L.A.W., and members of these organisations are entitled to all the 
privileges enjoyed by the Swiss. We have not found the benefits very 
appreciable. 

In cycling in Switzerland more attention must be paid to the lay 
of the land and the geography of the country than anywhere else. 
Want of care in mapping out the easier and shorter side of a pass to 
climb will spoil all the pleasure of a tour — that is if one wishes to have 
the shortest climbs and the longest coasts. But heights, distances, and 
times are given by Baedeker, and though the C.T.C. Road-book is of 
no use in this way, the ordinary guides are perfectly satisfactory. 

Roughly speaking, the shorter and steeper side of each pass is the 

1 06 



THE ROUTE 107 

Swiss side ; therefore try, as much as possible, to climb every pass from 
the easier side. 

Xhus, it is perfectly easy to ride to the top of the Col de la Faucille 
from Les Rousses ; it is quite impossible to ride up to the top from Gex, 
and the coast down is much longer into France than into Switzerland. 
The Simplon should be climbed from Brieg, and not from Domo 
d'Ossola; the St. Gotthard from Airola, not from Goschenen. Lucerne, 
as it lies so low, is in fact a very bad place to start from ; you must 
begin to climb up into the mountains as soon as you leave it, but you 
coast down to it from everywhere. 

There are excellent Swiss Road Maps, Cartes Routieres de Mulhaupt, 
published at Berne, which can be purchased in any of the large towns. 

Beware the Swiss driver of all sorts of animals ; he will force 
you in the gutter if he can. 

Beware the tourists of all nations ; he and she are quite blind and 
stone deaf, always walk in the middle of the road, and protest against 
giving you an inch of it. 

The majority of English, American, and French cycle tourists enter 
Switzerland awheel from Dijon. The road is excellent from that city — 
once you are off its pave. This is the route we followed : — 



KILOMETRES. 

Dijon 




Genlis 


17 


Excellent undulating road. 


Auxonnc ... 


H 


Cross the Sa6ne, hilly, up and long descent to 


Sampans ... 


II 


D61e, rather dangerous turns in the town. 


D6le 


S 




Parcey 


7 


Long up-grades, good road. 


Mont Sous Vaudrey 


II 




Montholicr 


10 


Continual rise, culminating in zigzags beyond 


Poligny 


9 


Poligny. 



io8 



OVER THE ALPS ON A BICYCLE 



Montrond... 
Champagnole 
Pont de Chaux 
St. Laurent 
Morez 

Les Rousses 

Col de la Faucillc 
Gcx 

Sacconax ... 

Geneva ... 

Thonex ... 

Annemasse 
Bonneville 
Cluses 
Sallanches... 
La Fayet ... 

Chamounix 

Argentiirc 

Col des Montets ... 

La Chatelard 

T6te Noire 
Trient 

Col de la Forclaz... 
La Croix, join St. 
Bernard route ... 
Martigny ... 
Sion 
Sicrrc 
Visp 
Brieg 
Bcrisal 



KILOMKTRES. 

• 13 

10 
12 

• 9 

12 



Descent to Champagnole, thence continuous 
climbing to St. Laurent ; very hilly, last part 
very steep down into Morez. 



( French ^ 
" ( Customs ) 



»9 
II 

12 



Steady climb. 

Easy riding to the top, fine road. 
Steep descent at top of col. 



S^'« Uileroad. 



Customs I 

5 

j Swiss 
^ I Customs 



4 

«S 
16 

8 
'9 



4 
3* 



II 

4 
4 
3 

1 1 

3 
29 

>7 
28 

9 



\ Swiss 
\ Customs 



do. do. 

Bad to fair. Take direct road on right bank of 

river. 
The road is being superseded by rail, and it was 

bad, more or less, from Geneva to La Fayet in 1 897. 
Beware of traffic by the side of river. Good 

riding into Chamounix. 

Good road. Climb, and then descent to La 
Chatelard. 

Abominable road all the way to Martigny. Climb. 

Steep descent. 

Unridable climb ; mere track. 

Continuous steep descent ; road improves. 

Good road, gradual rise, wind usually behind in 

afternoon in summer. Picturesque old towns 

all the way from Martigny to Visp ; thence to 

Brieg the going is very easy. 
The pass commences in the middle of the town, 

quite unridable until near Berisal. 



THE ROUTE 



109 



Hospice . . . 
Simplon ... 
Swiss Customs 

Isclla 



KILOHETRKS. 
12 

. 8 
12 



Domo d'Ossola 
Premoscllo 
Gravellona 
Bavcno 

(boat to Lavcho) 

V nK CSC . . • . • . 

Como 

(boat to Varcnna) 
Colico 
Chiavenna 
Campo Dolcino ... 
Pianazza ... 



Frontier ... 

Splugen ... 

Hinterrhein 

S. Bernardino Pass 

S. Bernardino Town 

Mesocco . 

Fork 

Biasco 

Giornico . 

Faido 

Airolo 



'9 
26 

10 

II 

22 

24 

18 
28 

13 
»7 



More or less ridable. Gradual descent, which 
becomes steeper near Gonda, where great care 
is necessary. 

\ ^ > Good road, descending all the way. 

( Customs ) ' o / 

Level road. 

do. 
Level road by Lake Maggiorc. 

Hilly road. 

Final descent into Como. 

Splendid road by Lake Como. 
Gradual rise. 
Growing steeper. 
Up all the way. 



10 

10 

9 

8 

H 

2S 
16 
20 
18 

H 



Italian ( 
Customs ) 

I Swiss ) 
( Customs ( 



Hospice St. Gotthard 1 3 
c X Hospenthal 15 
2 "rt^ I Andermatt 3 

o< "* ' Teufelsbrucke 
Realp 



2 
7 



Steep climb. 

Bad descent. 

Fairly level road. 

Unridable climb most of the way. 

Steep descent. 

do. do. easing off. 
Easy descent to level. 
Level. 
Gradual rise. 

do. do. with steep bits. 

do. do. ridable. 
Steep all the way nearly. 
Easy descent. 
Level. 

Rapid descent. 
Easy climb. 



no 



Furka Pass 


KILOMETKES 

... 1% 


Rhone Glacier Hotel 1 1 


Grimsel Pass 


... lO 


Summit of Pass 


... / 


Hospice . . . 
Handeck ... 


■■■\ 


Guttannen 


... ( 


Meiringen 
Brunig Pass 
Sarnen 


... 40 
.. 15 


Lucerne ... 


.. 26 



OVER THE ALPS ON ^A , BICYCLE 



Little riding. 

Steep, winding, dangerous descent all the way. 

Climb. 

Magnificent coast all the way, unridable climb in 
other direction. 



Very easy climb, but the best road in Switzerland ; 

easy descent. 
Flat road round the lake. 



From Lucerne the traveller may make his way to any part of the world by train 
or road. 



UNWIN BBOTHEBR, THE OREBHAM PR1SB8, WOKINO AND LONDON. 



■^ 



JUN 2 4 1938 



^